World Population Growth

In less than six minutes, this brief video from covers two millennia of the earth’s population growth. The final 20 seconds are visually powerful, and make clear why it is impossible to discuss environmental issues without addressing population.

Shawn Smallman, 2016

Map of Japan’s demographic decline

When Kim and I wrote the first edition of the textbook, the external reviewers asked for a number of important changes, one of which was to include more demographic information. In the second edition, we continued to draw on demography, which particularly informed our discussion in the conclusion regarding future trends in global affairs. Demographic information can be dangerous if over-simplified, and it is often cited by cultural conservatives who fear the impact of migration. Still, demographics is perhaps the most reliable means to look into the future, whether it be to foresee the decline of francophone communities in Canada outside of Quebec and New Brunswick, or the enduring power of France, which has a brighter demographic future than many European states. The major global demographic trend in the world today is towards demographic decline amongst developed nations, even as Africa’s population climbs sharply. Some nations, such as Taiwan, have birth rates that are shockingly low. Of course, there are also advantages to population decline, particular regarding environmental issues. With a smaller population there is less demand for energy and other key resources. In the short term, however, most nation-states that have aging populations will face significant economic challenges, from how to fund the pension system, to the declining number of taxpayers to service the national debt. …

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